The Good Pharisees, Part 2

There are a lot of songs with the word “good” in the title. Off the top of your head, how many can you name? If you were on your game, you probably would have mentioned some of the following songs: “Good Vibrations” (The Beach Boys), “Only the Good Die Young” (Billy Joel), “Good Day Sunshine” or “Good Morning, Good Morning” (The Beatles), “You’re No Good” (Linda Ronstadt), “Good Riddance” – aka, “Time of Your Life” (Green Day), “Good Lovin’” (The Rascals),”Good Enough” (Evanescence), “Good Golly, Miss Molly” (Creedence Clearwater Revival), “Good Girl Gone Bad” (Rihanna) and of course, “Good King Wenceslas.” And if you got even four of those names, good for you! But of course, if you got less than three titles, let’s face it, “You’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good, baby you’re no good.” Now, if you named the theme from the movie, “The Good,

The Good Pharisees, Part 1

There are a lot of movies with the word “good” in the title. Off the top of your head, how many can you think of? If you were on your game, you probably mentioned several of the following: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), The Goodbye Girl (1977), Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014), Goodfellas (1990), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), A Few Good Men (1992), Good Will Hunting (1997), Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), The Good German (2006), The Good Lie (204), and As Good As It Gets (1997); and that is not to mention some TV series like The Good Place, Good Omens and Stranger Things (ok, I know, this one doesn’t have good in the title, but it’s still really good).  Based on all of these titles, here’s what I think: If you have the adjective “good” before

Matthew 23 (Again)

Okay, suppose you are a Wycliffe Bible translator and you’ve come to John 6:35 where Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.” But there is a problem: the culture for whom you are translating doesn’t have bread. In fact, they never have seen or tasted bread. As a translator, what do you do now? This was the question facing one translator in Papua New Guinea. The Dani people had no bread of any sort.  Now, if this was some verse tucked away in Nahum, no one would really care (I know, I just threw Nahum under the bus and for that I am sorry; but really, when was the last time you read Nahum?). But this was in John’s gospel, and Jesus’ words here were extremely important. Jesus was declaring that he was the true manna from heaven and that, by believing in him, the hungry souls of people

The Matthew 23 Pharisee, Part 2

True confession. I often root for the bad guy. I always pull for the monster in every Frankenstein movie (Isn’t it clear that if there is a bad guy here, it is the grave-robbing Doctor Frankenstein?). And in all the Jurassic Park movies, you will always find me pulling for the dinosaurs to have a good meal and the sooner into the movie, the better. I so wanted the Creature from the Black Lagoon to win; and any time The Mummy shows up, please know I will be in his corner. I feel that Loki is basically misunderstood; and while he is extremely mischievous (and definitely broken—childhood trauma, no doubt)), I can’t wish him harm.  And I cheered when Verbal walked out of the police station in The Usual Suspects. Even if he isn’t Keyser Soze, he is pretty cool. And to be perfectly honest and open, anytime I watch

The Matthew 23 Pharisee, Part 1

Quick, name three of the greatest speeches of all time.  I bet your three are included in the eight speeches listed below (if one of your speeches is not listed below, tell me so that I can make amends!) Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I have a dream” speech (“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”) Winston Churchill’s “We shall fight on the beaches” speech (“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. . .”) Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (“That government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”) John F.

The Good, the Bad and the Pharisees

To be sure, stealing is always wrong, except when the bad guys are the good guys (or if not good guys, at least lovable rogues); and then stealing is both good and fun (if you are reading this to your young children, maybe you should have skipped this first sentence). Here’s proof. Below are four movies. For each movie, please identify the bad guys (defined as who you want to fail): The Sting – Redford and Newman are con men trying to steal major money from crime boss, Doyle Lonnegan. Who are the bad guys: the thieves or the mark? The Italian Job – Sutherland and Wahlberg have a plan to steal $35 million in gold bars from a heavily guarded safe in Venice, Italy. After the heist, one of the gang betrays his friends and steals the gold for himself. The rest of the movie is about stealing the

In This Corner, the Bad Guys

Let’s start off this new series with a short quiz. Simply identify the bad guys in the following lists: At Thermopylae, was it (A) the 300 Spartans or (B) the Persians? In Star Wars, was it (A) Luke, Leah, Hans and Chewy or (B) Darth Vader and the Empire? At Atlanta, was it (A) Sherman and the Union forces or (B) Hood and his Confederate army? In Get Smart, was it (A) Max, 99 and the agents of Control or (B) Siegfried and the agents of KAOS? At Little Big Horn, was it (A) Custer and the US Calvary or (B) Crazy Horse and the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians? At Hastings, was it (A) William-soon-to-be-the-Conqueror and his Norman Army or (B) lying King Harold and his Saxon army? In the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, was it (A) Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and the beloved Boston Bruins or

The Lament: Praying the Psalms

Heather Dubrow opens her book, Genre, with a spectacular illustration. She writes: “Assume that the following paragraph opens a novel entitled, Murder at Marplethorpe”: “The clock on the mantelpiece said ten thirty, but someone had suggested recently that the clock was wrong. As the figure of the dead woman lay on the bed in the front room, a no less silent figure glided rapidly from the house. The only sounds to be heard were the ticking of that clock and the loud wailing of an infant.”  So, what type of book are we reading? I’m already looking for clues as to who killed the woman because we are obviously in the midst of murder mystery. But what happens if we read the same paragraph with a different title, something like, The Personal History of David Maplethorpe. Suddenly, everything changes. The clock is no longer a clue as to when a

The Lament: The Imprecatory Psalms

As you read this, unspeakable evil is being perpetrated against Ukrainian people by Russian invaders. It is hard for me to imagine such horror being committed, especially against civilians. The Russians are using all sorts of military options to crush Ukraine: tanks, missiles, heavy artillery, rockets, warplanes and warships. Here’s my question: what weapons do we have to fight this evil? Paul answers that question in 2 Corinthians 10. There, we read (vv. 3-4): “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.” Let me be honest, Paul’s words here sound less than helpful. I want a legion of angels at our disposal. I want access to plagues of locusts and flies and boils and hail. I want fire to rain down from heaven, and I want the earth to open up and

The Lament: Psalm 13

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is deeply disturbing. I love Ukraine. I love its people and its culture. In fact, my two-weeks in Ukraine changed my life. And now to watch Ukrainian cities being destroyed, its people butchered and its land turned into a wasteland is unbearable. In fact, it is pure evil. So, here’s the question: what can we do about it? When we lived in Miami, we didn’t live in the nicest of apartment buildings.  In fact, it was necessary, when you took out the trash, to throw rocks at the dumpster before you got too close so that whatever critters were inside could bolt before you opened the lid. And call me crazy, but I could live happily ever after without having another dumpster rat snarl or hiss at me. Now, that thought alone was pretty terrifying, but I never really considered what else might be out

A Resurrection Quiz

How well can you support your belief in the resurrection of Jesus? Let’s have a quiz to find out! Below are 20 questions about the evidence used to support the claim that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. These are all things you could use to answer a friend if they asked you, “Why do you believe that Jesus rose from the dead?” Let’s face it, if you don’t know any of the evidence, the only response you will be able to give is to sing the old, old song, “You ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart!”  And honestly, no one wants to hear you sing an answer. Okay, it’s quiz time. How well do you know your evidence for the resurrection? As always, no cheating, no calling a pastor and no wagering. We begin!  Mark’s source for the resurrection account is very interesting

The Unseen Servant, Part 3: The New Testament Servant

Here’s a truism: It’s not only what you say, but it is what you do with it. See, I could talk about clocks and tsunamis and being superstitious and about selfies and you would not be impressed at all, and rightly so. But look at these brilliant calligrams by Ji Lee from Designwrld (again these are copywritten, so be sure to give credit where credit is due, and for these designs, there ought to be great credit given!). Instead of talking clocks, let’s talk. . . . And instead of trying to define a tsunami to someone, all we have to do is show them this. . . . Are you superstitious? Here’s a perfect way to picture that attitude. . . . And instead of interrupting a conversation to tell everyone you want to take a selfie, simply show them this calligram. . . .  See, it’s not only

The Unseen Servant, Part 2

Last week, we featured a handful of very popular logos and asked you to find their “hidden” messages. Here’s a logo. It may not have great brand recognition to you; but once you see it, it jumps off the page. Take a look. What do you see? (It’s protected with a trademark, so look, but don’t steal.)   If you see three letters, good for you! If you see a person with waving arms, even better! If you see a conductor for the LSO—the London Symphony Orchestra—you win! Seeing what the designer intended you to see, even though it may not be perfectly clear, is what the art of interpretation is all about. Case in point, the identity of the servant in Isaiah 53. Last week, we listened as Levine and Brettler wrestled to identify the Servant in Isaiah 53. I found it interesting that they never tried to put

The Unseen Servant

Below are five logos. Take a good look at each of them. We have the Fed Ex logo, The Tostitos logo, The Toblerone Logo, The Goodwill logo, and the Tour de France logo (all protected and trademarked by their companies). Okay, now that you have seen each of these, what didn’t you see? Did you see the arrow in the FedEx logo? Once you see it, it’s obvious. Do you see the two people with the Tostito chip preparing to dip it into the salsa? Now, I can’t unsee it. Do you see the happy bear on the Toblerone mountain? Is it a chocolate bar or a chocolate bear? In either case, it is unbearable; and once you see it, it jumps off the mountain. Do you see that the “g” in goodwill is the same half-face smiling on the logo, but with a different background?  I’ve seen their logo

Isaiah’s Version of the Virgin, Part 3

How do you say something slightly nasty, nicely? Two stories, one about an actress that is nasty; and the other, well, it is also about an actress and, unfortunately, it too is nasty. Miriam Hopkins was more than an American actress. She was highly regarded for her intellectual prowess and for her friendships with many of the country’s intellectual elite. As a result, many actors felt it was their duty to upstage her at any opportunity. For instance, an anonymous starlet, whose prominence was more the result of her looks than her talent, once bragged, “You know, my dear, I insured my voice for fifty-thousand dollars.” Hopkins replied, “That's wonderful. And what did you do with the money?" That was nasty. Ilka Chase was also a celebrated actress, but she also was a fairly-successful author. Green with envy, many of her rivals disliked Ilka and believed she was a fraud.

Isaiah’s Version of the Virgin, Part 2

What’s in a name? Consider these twelve weird American town names (I’ll not mention any towns in Maryland or in Pennsylvania; Maryland, because no one here will laugh at a town named Accident, and Pennsylvania, because this blog is rated PG-13). Here are my top twelve strange town names. We have Boring, Oregon; No Name, Colorado; Why, Arizona; and Why Not, North Carolina. There’s a Yum Yum, Tennessee; a Ding Dong, Texas; a Zig Zag, Oregon; and a Good Grief, Idaho. And let us not forget, Bugtussle, Tennessee; Fink, Nebraska; Nothing, Arizona; and last, but not least, my favorite, Bitter End, Tennessee! Names are funny things. Our question today concerns the name, Immanuel. We are trying to figure out the identity of the Immanuel spoken of in Isaiah 7:14. I argued in the last post that it is Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (Isa. 8:3). Matthew seems to say it is Jesus (Mt. 1:23).

Isaiah’s Version of the Virgin, Part 1

The famous American painter, Robert Rauschenberg once said, “An empty canvas is full.” I think he was crazy, but I am not a big fan of minimalism. But even though I am not now nor ever have been a member of the minimalist art movement, I am a huge fan of a minimalist experiment conducted by Bell Labs in the 1970’s.  In 1971, Leon Harmon wanted to identify the least amount of visual information a picture may contain and still be recognizable.  Harmon took a picture of Abraham Lincoln and divided it into 200 squares with each square shaded a different intensity of gray. The picture is very blurry, very gray with a few darker blobs and consists entirely of blocks; but as soon as you see it, you know that’s Lincoln.  Honestly, it is shocking how little information one needs to identify someone in a picture.  Here’s today’s question:

An Eye for an Eye, Part 2

Here’s what I think: Every once in a while, you need a good palindrome. Not because they are the funniest thing on the internet, but because we need to be reminded that sometimes looking at things backwards makes the most sense (or at least in the case of palindromes, the same sense). So here are ten great palindromes. Feel free to read them forwards or backwards. After all, it really doesn’t matter. Step on no pets. Never odd or even. No lemon, no melon Madam in Eden, I'm Adam. Dennis and Edna sinned. A man, a plan, a canal: Panama. Eva, can I stab bats in a cave? Golf? No sir, prefer prison-flog. Marge lets Norah see Sharon's telegram. Tarzan raised Desi Arnaz' rat. Last week, we began looking at the so-called antitheses in Matthew 5 where Jesus refers back to the Old Testament law and refutes it by saying, “But

An Eye for an Eye, Part 1

Samuel Goldwyn was Hollywood’s answer to Yogi Berra (even though Goldwyn was born first).  As a movie producer, he was very, very successful; but as a speaker, few people were better at being more incomprehensible. So, if you are looking for a good oxymoron, look no further. Goldwyn is reported to have said the following: "Include me out." "Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined." "If I could drop dead right now, I’d be the happiest man alive!" "Spare no expense to save money on this one." "We’re overpaying him, but he’s worth it." "I read part of it all the way through." “I don't want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their job.” Scholars have called the list of sayings in Matthew 5 the antitheses (also called “the oppositions”). Six times, Jesus says

Let Us (Part 2)

“The world may never know.” That’s how the classic Tootsie Roll Pop commercial ended. It was a heart-breaking answer. A boy obviously caught up in the existential dread that is unknowing, runs to a turtle and asks him, “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?” The turtle, beaten down by years and failures, confesses his failure. He may start out licking, but in the end the temptation is too great. He bites down.  He suggests the boy asks the owl. The boy, hopeful that his unknowing will be turned into knowing, runs to the wise owl and asks him. The owl takes the Tootsie Roll Pop and says, “Let’s see.” And with that he begins to lick, “One, two, three. . . .” But on the third lick, he bites down. Hence, the reason we may never know. No

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